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  • Writer's picturePhil


Edward was born in the early 1000s, the son of King Ethelred the Unready. After a Danish invasion in 1013, he was sent to exile in Normandy, where even from a young age, he developed a love of the Mass and of hunting. With numerous rivals vying for the throne, it was not clear that Edward would ever become king, and he was not crowned until he was around 40 years old.

As king, Edward developed a reputation for living a simple, pious lifestyle and being generous towards the poor. Some reports indicate that he longed for a monastic life,

but other accounts of Edward’s life suggest that he had a temper. After becoming king, he stripped his own mother of her home and property, complaining that she had favoured his brothers instead of supporting him - although some accounts indicate that the property may have rightfully belonged to him as king.

His piety is not in doubt, though the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle portrayed him not as a saint but as a strong king. However, the accepted picture of him for centuries afterwards was entirely different. He was remembered as a devout weakling, too obsessed with the matters of the spirit to cope with the real world. This was probably because his death led directly to the Norman Conquest, and to the fact that, despite being married to one of the most beautiful women in the country, he had no children by her. It was assumed he had been too holy to have any inclination for the matters of the flesh!

Edward’s humble tastes stood in stark contrast to that of other rulers. And the people benefited, as they did not have to fund a lavish lifestyle.

According to a contemporary writer, the reign of Edward saw prosperity rising as agricultural techniques improved, and the population grew to around one million. Taxation was comparatively light, as Edward was not an extravagant king and lived off the revenues of his own lands (approximately £5,500 a year) - nor did he have to pay for expensive military campaigns.

King Edward The Confessor died on 5th January 1066, and was interred in the Abbey Church of Westminster, which he refounded and to which he had devoted much time, energy and money.

The Bayeux Tapestry portrays the Funeral Procession of King Edward as it enters Westminster Abbey

Many miracles were attributed to Edward, and on the anniversary of his death, January 5th, 1161, Pope Alexander pronounced him a saint, and proclaimed that

Edward should become known as ‘the Confessor’, the saint who had died a natural death, to distinguish him from St Edward the Martyr.

After the reign of Henry II Edward was considered the patron saint of England, until in 1348 he was replaced by St.George. He remained the patron saint of the Royal Family.

The body was moved again, on this day, 13th October, 1269, to its present position in Westminster Abbey behind the high altar, when Henry III built a new tomb for him in the course of rebuilding the church. Henry, himself deeply pious, held the Confessor in special reverence and had named his first son Edward after him.

The Shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor, Westminster Abbey

Appropriately or not, St. Edward the Confessor is known as the patron saint of difficult marriages!

Sovereign God, who set your servant Edward

upon the throne of an earthly kingdom

and inspired him with zeal for the kingdom of heaven:

grant that we may so confess the faith of Christ by word and deed,

that we may, with all your saints, inherit your eternal glory;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

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